Monday, 28 November 2011

Victory and Celtics

With much happiness, I am pleased to have attended my first home game of this A-League season (2011-2012) where the Melbourne Victory have actually won the game. In what appeared to be a close game after Melbourne lost a 2-0 lead to the Gold Coast team, Carlos Hernández headed in the winning goal for the Melbourne Victory in the final 10 minutes to win the game 3-2. Hernández also scored the second goal, with the initial goal being scored by Harry Kewell.

On other news, it appears the NBA is coming back with a shortened season of only 66 games. The first games will be on Christmas day, and it includes the Boston Celtics against the New York Knicks.

My sports watching is back to normal!

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Knights vs Dragons duel deck

I enjoy playing Magic: The Gathering (MTG), and one of the easiest ways I play it is by grabbing preconstructed decks and playing those as they are. Wizards (the company behind MTG), came up with a great concept in duel decks. Within their low cost offering, you have two decks per pack. Each deck has one or two powerful cards, and good mix of complementary cards that two people of any skill level can start playing straight away. The price point works out cheaper to buy duel decks than event decks - the former getting you 120 cards, and the later getting you only 75 (tuned) cards. This article revolves around their Knights v Dragons duel decks (go to the website for the full decklist).

In a rush to start playing these decks, I actually did not take photos of it first. So here is what the decks look like without the cards in them:
Knights vs Dragon duel deckKnights vs Dragon duel deck

When it comes to an even match, I would say that these two decks are quite equal - but it depends on the timing of the game. If you are playing the Knights, you will be playing a lot of small creatures, which will come out quickly. They will be able to give benefits to each other - similar to the way that Humans give benefits to each other in the Innistrad block. If you are playing the Dragons, you will usually play a few goblins, and some quick attacks, but you are just holing off your opponent until you can get a dragon out. Once a dragon does enter the game, it will usually mean the end for your opponent in a few turns.

One aspect of the game I do notice in these decks that I have not noticed in other decks as much is the importance of having a good supply of land to generate mana. While you do not want to have too much mana draw, and hence not be able to draw creatures to dispatch your opponent, you do not want to little, so you cannot keep up with the flow of the game. Each game I play, have noticed it that when one person (playing either the Knights or the Dragons) starts to falter with playing their land cards, it will usually indicate that they will loose the game.

As mentioned before, the decks are evenly matched. I have played against Chewie and with SpecialK, and have mentally noted that the winning decks are not one, but are about even between the two. I have yet to play this with KittyKat.

This product (consisting of the two decks) is currently available in stores, and should provide no challenge in obtaining. I look forward to hear from any other people who do use duel decks willing to share their experiences with me.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Innistrad event decks

Wizards of the Coast have come out with products in an attempt to include more people playing the standard format of Magic: The Gathering (MTG). In the same way they came out with War of Attrition deck that contained the banned card, Stoneforge Mystic, they have also come out with event decks for the current set release of Innistrad. These Innistrad event decks, being Hold the Line deck and Deathfed deck, are designed to be played out of the box - each coming with a 60 card main deck and a 15 card sideboard. All cards in both decks are standard format legal (unlike the Stoneforge Mystic card).

Innistrad event decksInnistrad event decksInnistrad event decksInnistrad event decks

Hold the Line (left in the images above) is a mono-white deck, and it is fast to play. Get out a cheap (low mana cost) creature in the first few rounds, and keep attacking. Use equipment like the Butcher's Cleaver to pump up creatures and attack hard for the win. Use Bonds of Faith as required - whether you need to pump up one of your own creatures, or lock down one of your opponents creatures. It is more flexible than an Oblivion Ring, which you also get in this deck.

Deathfed (right in the images above) is a blue, black, and green deck. It is centred around putting items into your graveyard (discard pile), and then retrieving them, or making them count towards something else that you are about to play. It is not quick to play, and requires some setting up, but once it is established, it is hard to beat. Spider Spawning is one example of a card that will provide results with preparation. Play it late, and again with flash back, for a swarm of 1/2 token spider creatures that all have reach (allowing you to block flyers). You may loose a few to their large bomb creatures, but a few will get through. If enough get through each time, then a win will be sure to follow. One danger I have experienced with this deck is that due to the self-milling effect, you will loose by not having any more cards to draw from your library. It will not happen often, but there is always a risk for it to occur.

At this point in time, I favour playing the mono-white deck. It is quick, simple, and does not require too much planning to get win conditions. Both would make good bases for people who wanted to get into standard format play in MTG.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Social notworking...

Two interesting articles recently came to my attention:
Let me start off this by saying that I do not use Facebook, and I have never seen the need to use it either. Why would I? Every one I would like to speak to, I do. Some people more than others. Some I see on a daily basis. Some I see periodically. Some I only speak to on the phone. Some I speak to via email or SMS. If someone needs to contact me, they will.

I do not need to have hundreds of thousands of friends. I do not need to be liked by people (not that I am). But with the increasing spread of Facebook in people's lives, is this a positive impact? Like all forms of media, you cannot have a simple yes or no answer, but it lies somewhere in the middle. I do believe it can be used innocently to be a form of communication - but I also strongly believe it can be used as a huge time waster, and a way to stalk / cyberbully people. It also is a great way to showcase humans being stupid. This is really waiting for statistics to illustrate that there is a small percentage of people that will do silly acts and publicize it. Apparently the use of Facebook is so addictive that users cannot cancel their accounts, even when they are being stalked or bullied.

I do not object to all methods of social networking. Used in a professional context, it can be a useful tool. Linkedin shows this - but once again, it can be corrupted and abused.

Do we loose the way we communicate to each other when all we do is a shout out post on a virtual wall? Do we even know how to interact with each other? I know this does not apply to everyone on the planet, but it does apply to a lot of technologically savvy people who use a computer on a daily basis.

How does everyone feel about this?

Monday, 7 November 2011

Piracy, copyright, patents, and other corporate tactics

In an interesting recent article, there seems to be a reason (for at least the author) of advocating the use of piracy. I am not going to advocate breaking the law, but in this article, I am hoping to get people to think about the law - and is it just?

Being just and being lawful, while being intertwined - are not always the same. For example, if you look at the slavery code in the USA, they may have been the law of the day, but they are far from being right or just. No man should own another man (or woman). Following a civil war, an amendment to the law was made, prohibiting slavery (unless used as punishment for crime).

Hopefully by now, you may be questioning what the purpose of these laws are. So, is patenting and copyright just? Or does it stifle innovation, and only serve to create more money for the corporations and individuals that hold the patents and copyrights? A Google lawyer may have a vested interest in questioning the laws, as they are currently being held ransom by patents and copyrights from Microsoft over their Android operating system for phones. Even an Australian has registered the patent for the wheel.

Is patents and copyrights fair or just? Or is it a way for the 1% to get richer while the 99% are kept below them. I am happy to hear comments from all sides in this issue.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Chewie got milled!

Chewie came over the other night, and we played some games of Magic: The Gathering (MTG). In this case, we played some games using the Innistrad Intro decks. Chewie played the Carnival of Blood deck and I played the Eldritch Onslaught deck (see the Wizard's site for the full deck lists).

An interesting scenario happened. I "milled" Chewie so that he had no cards in his library, and won the game. The rules stated that if he had no more cards in his library, and was required to draw a card, he lost the game. Stating all that, there was a few earlier opportunities that I could have finished him off - but I chose not to. I wanted to experience what it would be like to mill an actual person. Up until that point, I had only milled a computer competitor (in the Shandalar game).

It was an interesting feeling, and it is one I suggest that every MTG player try to do, at least once. The game hung in the balance from around half way, and there were many opportunities Chewie could have attempted to cause damage to me, but in all those cases, I was lucky enough to have something which could stave off his attack. When the game was finished, I felt exhausted (as it went on for about double the time of a normal game), but highly satisfied in my achievement.

I wonder if he will have the same luck in attempting to mill me. Fortunately for Innistrad players, there is a new card - Laboratory Maniac - that turns the rule around. If you have that card in your control, and you have no more cards in your library, you win the game. Maybe I should try to insert that card into the Eldritch Onslaught deck and see if I can mill myself for the win.